PLAYING HARDBALL

Who Is Pressuring CBS To Shut Down Gay Journalist Itay Hod For Outing Aaron Schock?

itay hodSomebody has it in for Itay Hod. But who? As you’ll recall, Hod is the respected journalist who essentially outed Republican Rep. Aaron Schock, he of the gay wardrobe, impeccable pecs and antigay voting record. Clearly, someone wants to stir up some professional trouble for Hod because of Schock’s outing.

When Hod first took aim at Schock in January, there was some confusion about his affiliation with CBS. (Hod hadn’t updated his LinkedIn profile, which should have noted that his affiliation with the network had ended two years earlier.) At that time, someone using the Gmail handle “D Walker” sent media outlets a complaint about Hod.

“Gawker and the blog Queerty are publishing articles that identify Itay Hod as a CBS News anchor/reporter,” Walker griped. “This identification with CBS News is adding credibility to a story on Congressman Aaron Schock being gay — that includes unsubstantiated and journalistically-irresponsible allegations.”

(Actually, including 19-year-old Olympic diver Tom Daley as one of only 71 people that Schock followed on Instagram added a lot more credibility to the story than Hod’s credentials.)

The dust died down in the intervening months, but last Friday, Hod published a piece on CBS.com about the AIDS Lifecycle fundraising ride. Within an hour of its publication, the very same D Walker with the same email address emerged to send another missive to media outlets, including Queerty, demanding to know if Hod was working for CBS again.

6a00d8341c730253ef01a73dafc7cc970d1Now, only Hod’s mother would probably follow his career moves this closely, and she probably wouldn’t be relying upon the help of a Google Alert. Interestingly, Walker again cited Schock as the impetus for his email.

“After Mr. Hod outed Congressman Aaron Schock, you issued a statement that, even thought he identified himself on his Linkedin profile as a “CBS News anchor/reporter”, that he didn’t work for CBS News,” Walker said in his email. “Has that changed?”

The email sparked another response from CBS, with the network producing a statement over the weekend letting Walker–and Queerty–know that Hod was simply delivering a freelance assignment on a totally unrelated topic (unless the Congressman participated in the AIDS Lifecyle, which we doubt). The larger chilling effect, of course, was to put both Hod and the network on notice that their actions are being watched.

And why is CBS so eager to please this apparently anonymous source by issuing a statement distancing itself from Hod on a Saturday morning, when most journalists are sleeping in?

Now you may well ask yourself, who would be this interested in trying to put Hod on the spot? Queerty emailed Walker, who does not sign his emails, to ask who he (or she) is and why he is dogging Hod like a modern-day Inspector Javert. Walker never responded. Apparently, he prefers to cause problems anonymously instead of being forthright about his motives.

Walker has made the story one about Hod’s career, knowing full well how a skittish network will respond to his questions. The accusation took center stage. The much more interesting story is the accuser. Who is Walker that he’s so keen on tracking (and trashing) Hod?

There are really only two possible explanations for the emails. One is that Walker despises outing as a violation of journalistic principles and wants Hod to be banned for life from any reputable outlet. Of course, it’s hard to imagine someone quite so driven by love of the profession to follow Hod so obsessively for the sole aim of making mischief.

The second explanation is that it’s one of Schock’s supporters, which is a phrase you can interpret however you see fit. After all, Walker does make a point of making Schock’s outing the point of his emails, and who would have the greatest stake in revisiting that complaint? Someone with ties to the Congressman might be perfectly happy to play dirty tricks as a kind of revenge for the embarrassment the outing caused Schock.

Walker’s ham-fisted efforts don’t help Schock any. He managed to put the outing behind him (in a manner of speaking) by refusing to address it and by deleting his Instagram account. (The account, and Schock’s abs, are back.)

Making trouble for Hod only brings the story back to life. It’s also a reminder that trying to put journalists on the defensive is the type of political hardball played when the stakes are high and personal.

So what are the stakes in this case? You can probably figure that out on your own.